Anyone who has ever used the expression “parenting isn’t easy” probably had a child who was a picky eater.
As the owner of Wholesome Tummies a local kids’ lunch catering business, I get parents calling, e-mailing and stopping me on the street to tell me that THEIR child is the pickiest eater in the world. It’s a common problem, more common than one might think.
In our business, we serve hundreds of kids each day, many of whom are picky eaters. We are not dieticians, but our experience has taught us a few tricks, which might help.
- If you do not want your child to eat a particular food (i.e. Chicken Fingers or Hot Dogs), stop buying it. “What!? But what will my child eat?” Perhaps nothing and that is Okay. Your child will not starve. By continuing to buy the foods that are unhealthy, you are allowing the behavior to continue. You are the CEO of your kitchen and you can decide what comes in and out of it.
- Offer it, but don’t force it. Keep putting the green beans on his plate. Just the exposure to it is important. If you throw in the towel and give up, he learns that it is ok to not have vegetables in his diet. One day, he might surprise you and try a bite.
- Limit snacks. Let their tummies get a little empty and hungry before a meal. Then do what my business partner does with her kids (genius), give them appetizers. Put out a plate of carrots and yummy ranch dressing for them to dip. How about some celery with PB and raisins to start with? The combination of hunger and available snacks might entice them to give it a try.
- Do not be a short order cook. Your child should eat what you are eating for dinner, when you are eating dinner. Family dinners are key. Kids that eat as a family are far more likely to try new foods than those kids that are isolated from the family unit.
- Be a good example. It goes without saying that if you are eating burgers, fries and a Coke, how can you expect your child to eat healthily? Practicing what you preach goes a long way.
- Make mealtime a relaxed and fun time for your picky eater. Forcing, bribing and pleading will only create more stress and a power struggle. Try putting healthy foods in a positive light. Try not to label foods as “good” and “bad.”
- Exposure, Exposure, Exposure. It can take 10-15 times for a child to finally try something new. Don’t give up hope! Keep making those healthy meals and one day, your child might just surprise you.
- If all else fails, take a tip from recent bestseller cookbooks and “sneak” those veggies in. Pureed veggies are practically unnoticeable in soups, casseroles, spaghetti sauces and even desserts.
Implementing these ideas takes patience. Fussy eaters will not be turned around over night, but in time with some hard work and creativity, your child can learn to like and even love more healthful foods.